In 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a study that sent Oregon residents reeling in a statewide identity crisis. In addition to its usual ranking as one of America’s most desirable places to live, citizens learned it was also ranked first in the nation in incidents of outright hunger and sixth for what the USDA calls "food insecurity." Oregonians were starving. And what’s more this hunger wasn’t one whose severity could be measured in distended bellies. It was an insidious cousin that crept into the lives of neighbors, people with jobs, homes and the trappings of a middleclass existence. Behind those doors were parents who skipped meals to make sure their children had enough to eat, men and women who couldn’t eat between paychecks.
Oregonians of various stripes banded together to understand why so many residents were going without and devised ways to address their needs. One of the results of this effort was an increase in the services offered by the Oregon Food Bank, a nonprofit agency that supplies a network of nearly 800 emergency distribution centers with food. The food bank recently opened an impressive 94,000 square-foot warehouse. Here food donated by government and corporate sources is packed from floor to ceiling.
Unfortunately, as "Now" discovered during its report, the state’s food advocates are presently battling challenges other than the hunger itself – the state’s 8% unemployment rate, the nation’s highest, its $840 million dollar budget deficit and welfare reform legislation all threaten to cut the number of meals they can provide to families in need.
Producer: Tom Casciato
Segment Producer: Betsy Rate
Editor: Alison Amron